Our patients are more accurate than the local meteorologist when it comes to predicting cold fronts! Anyone who has arthritis will say they can predict upcoming weather changes based on their joint pain. The belief is that joint pain gets worse before the change in weather occurs. This awareness of pain gives someone the ability to “predict” an actual weather event BEFORE it takes place. But is this fact, or fiction?
While there's no consensus among scientists on the exact connection between weather and joint pain, a few theories about the relationship exist. One common belief is that people who experience joint pain may be sensitive to barometric pressure changes. Rain does bring a drop in barometric pressure which is a measure that refers to the weight of air. Low barometric pressure could cause soft tissue areas in your body to swell. This includes muscles, tendons, and any scar tissue. Your tissues could contract and expand, thus creating pain in the joints.
Another belief is that colder weather causes most people to remain indoors which yields periods of inactivity. Being less active causes less blood flow to the muscles, tendons, and joints causing them to become more stiff and achy. Also, colder temperatures cause your body to conserve heat by reducing blood flow to the arms and legs. Instead, the body pumps more blood to the lungs and heart which can also cause stiffness and pain in the joints due to a lack of blood flow.
Whether it is fact or fiction, those that experience this phenomenon know its effects, especially for those who experience chronic pain. If you or someone you know falls in this category there are ways to help it.
When the weather changes and temperature begins to fall, take measures to keep your body warm and comfortable. Try taking warm showers or baths, performing light exercise, or stretching. It’s tough to muster up the motivation to move when your joints ache, but this could be exactly what you need to start feeling better! Whatever you do, keep moving! Most importantly contact a skilled physical therapist before your pain becomes chronic. Keeping your joints flexible and strong are the best ways to counter any curve ball mother nature can throw.